inspiration

Enjoy the things you have now

I used to save things for another day. A better day. Like fancy bottles of wine and champagne. Like perfume.  As a kid it was stickers. I would find beautiful illustrations, logos, typography and burrow these treasures away. Years would roll by. I’d routinely clean my room and see these stickers over and over again. Unused, while I still waited for their “right” home. In a conversation with Ghostpatrol, he told me that he uses his stickers. I guess that’s the point of stickers. They’re not meant to last forever. And they’re not meant go unused.

In one of my catch-ups with friend, Jonni Pollard (meditation teacher, founder of the 1 Giant Mind app & regular contributor to this blog) I gave him a hug. He smelt nice. He told me he always wears this Jasmine perfume, which is quite expensive on the scale of perfume prices. I questioned why he used it every day because it was so expensive. He replied with a smile “Nah, I use everything I love now, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion, every day is a special occasion.”

Since then I’ve used everything that I would have normally saved for another time. Beautiful candles, certain clothes and shoes, stationary, body creams and aroma therapy. And those fancy bottles are being popped. There’s no need to wait.

 

Written: My home in LA

Listening to: Ambient noise and Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake "Brand New" on repeat in my head

 

(Image by the amazing Margaret Zhang)

Finding happiness with work

I love when people talk about their work and their eyes light up. I usually hear that it doesn’t feel like a job, they're happy because they're doing what they love. On the flip side, I have empathy for those who feel uninspired, tired and are looking for ‘the next thing’ but aren't sure how to get there.

In Roman Krznaric’s book, How Should We Live? he explores many ideas about life including love, travel, time and how humans have valued these ideas throughout history.

On the topic of work he compares our freedoms to that of the industrial revolution - which, let’s face it, would have sucked to have been a worker then - implying that now is a greater time than ever to do what we want.

He writes, “… the history of work suggests we can find careers that not only embody our values, but have meaningful goals, give us a sense of respect and use our talents. Some, if not all these, may be within your reach, offering you a job that is big enough for your spirit.”

Krznaric’s goes on to talk about living a polymathic life and gives the example of Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72) who was an author, architect, poet, linguist, cryptographer, philosopher and musician.

Alberti hung out with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The man rolled deep. Michelangelo was renowned for encouraging people to put their range of talents to full use. Inspired by his peers no less.

A life of work could mean doing a lot of things.

Today we call these people slashies. And it usually comes with a huge serve of eye rolling.

Should we really believe that people have only one talent important enough to pursue as a lifelong career?

That was a rhetorical question.

I think, at least to some degree, this type of reaction stems from a fear of trying new things, both in work and life.

Perhaps other people’s responses are simply a nervous reaction of them not ever wanting to be in that position. Personalising. That they have life “set”. For good. And so should you.

Yes to trying new things! Even if you don’t make money off the new things, perhaps not at the beginning, at least you get to explore what may truly be a spark. And who says that you can’t start over again… and again?

One of my favourite people I’ve ever interviewed is Owe Sandström. Owe is known in pop culture for having designed the costumes for ABBA in their hey day. ABBA’s costumes are so treasured they’re protected by Sweden’s National Archive.

Owe just so happens to also be a Zoologist and Biologist.

When I met Owe in his home studio, his fashion career was well behind him. He spoke with such joy about his morning on the farm collecting eggs for his breakfast.  And after his very passionate interview about his work with ABBA, he told me he was off to a University to guest lecture about sustainability on behalf of the World Wildlife Foundation.

My face hurt from smiling so much in his presence. He was genuinely living life to the fullest.

Back to Roman Krznaric. Krznaric cited a great Ralph Waldo Emerson quote in How Should We Live:

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled and torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble” 

Written in: My LA Home

Listening to: Duke Dumont - I Got U feat. Jax JonesThe Giver and the gentle hum of home appliances and the distant mumble of my friend in another room practicing lines for a television pilot.

What you wanted to do as a kid

I spent some time upright in my bed last week and thought about some of my earliest childhood memories. To me, between the ages of 3 and 6, I felt I was really clear with what I liked and what I didn’t. An age where I wasn’t  influenced or persuaded to think differently. This connection to what feels good has really shaped the way I live.

As a child I loved nature, especially being in my grandparent’s garden. We lived on a huge block of land in Melbourne where my grandparent’s grew veggies, fruits, nuts and had chickens. Now I live in a place in Los Angeles where I’m surrounded by wildlife. Instead of hens there are hummingbirds, eagles and owls; instead of almond and fig trees there’s eucalyptus and bamboo.

I've loved music ever since I can remember. No surprise really that my career and life has always been intertwined with music. I loved television and the places it could take me. Hence, career in media.

Another one of my fondest memories were my family dinners, which is why I go to effort to create meals for friends here in LA and wherever I travel to. I’ve talked before about the memorable experiences that you can create over a great meal.

This way of living all came from the sparks I got as a child. I followed what felt right.

Yet in my stillness I remembered something that I loved but didn’t entirely get to weave into my life. And that is Art.

One of the art classes I enjoyed the most during school was ceramics. The spark came from turning clay into something that would be useful and beautiful to me.

I connected this thought with my recent move to LA. My move has meant starting anew with everything. And that means buying new items, like ceramics.

You may be thinking, they’re just plates and bowls, Faustina. Who cares? Just buy them.

Well, instead of buying a set over Amazon or at Bed Bath and Beyond, why not follow that spark and at least try and make my own?

They may not look incredible to begin with. I'll probably knock clay off the spinning wheel on numerous occasions, collapse the soft clay when trying to make a bowl. But the spark will keep me on my seat.

And my logic says that the cost of a single awesome plate would be the same cost of an introductory lesson to ceramics. The knowledge and skills to create my own - BOOM!

So I booked myself into a one-on-one intro ceramics class. I start tomorrow. Yes to the kid in me! Follow the kid within. 

Written in: My favourite secret cafe in LA

Listening to: General noise

The joys of going offline

Since we all got smartphones do you remember a time when you completely hopped offline? Prior to the Christmas break I couldn’t. And I didn't realise how much I desperately needed to until December 25th hit. I went offline for almost two weeks.

I'd been entertaining the idea for a while. For every reason I loved being connected, there was also a side of me that felt that being constantly online, always available, became tiresome.

These days the social media space and the professional space are inextricably linked for me, and most people. My phone is the home for almost all communication. Except for real face-to-face connection and my love for old-school handwritten notes.

I wanted a break from the neck-tilted-downward-to-glowing-screen. Live life away from capturing it all. A break from filtering images, broadcasting, emails and the sometimes social media obligation I'm sure all of us feel - right?! At least sometimes.

So what happened? I went through a life audit. 

I didn't anticipate to. But putting away the habitual action of unlocking my phone to check my email, Instagram, Facebook whatever - had me observing how I used the Internet and how others were using it around me.

Firstly, I knew that in 2013 I had wasted a heck of a lot of time online. Those moments where I got sucked away from something that's far more important in front of me, around me while I'm scrolling, liking, commenting. Even doing it in the presence of people I was spending time with and they'd naturally do the same. Ridiculous.

Over my break, I could see my pre-offline behaviour in others. Couples, friends, family members in cafes and restaurants all around me sitting in front of one another, by each other's side, physically there, but giving their attention to their mobile phone.

The result? I've finely tuned my manners in the company of others. I instantly worked out ways to be far more economical with time.

The scrolling, liking, commenting can happen sparingly. Shorter emails to everyone. Communicating with friends via long form emails - no more. Picking up the phone, FaceTime (for free), or Skype makes up for writing and re-editing written catch-ups. And when phone calls turn idle, it's okay to say, "chat next time."

Twitter. The news as it's breaking? Not necessary. For years the television hasn't been on in my house in the mornings because the urgency, the content - murders, kidnappings- was all something I found extremely stressful as I started my day. I get the business of news, the competition for sources to be the first to deliver information. I also know that I can play catch up with the richest sources of news when I really need to.

Then there's the benefits of being offline and fully present. No interruption. No streams of information coming at me from all over the world. 

More time was spent completely engaged with every activity I shared with my family. That Peppa Pig Big Splash Show in Piccadilly Circus? I didn't take a single sneaky photo to blast to the masses about how awesome my afternoon was. I just told you waaaay after the event on this blog instead. Boom! Or the urge to quote-tweet Barry Humphries while he was thanking us patrons during his Farewell Show in London? I took in all his positive reflective talk in real time.

As we constantly share our lives through technology, my aim is to not allow it to take away from living in the moment. I'm sure many of us do it better than others, sometimes though, especially from offline mode I do see myself slipping into that world a little too much. So much so this offline mode is something I'm going to practice regularly. I'm talking chunks of hours in the day, most weekends and even whole adventure trips away.

All the people that I know online will all still be there when I get back.

 

Mostly written in:

My Home in Los Angeles

Chunks written in:

 The Natural Kitchen

77-78 Marylebone High Street

London W1U 5JX

& on American Airlines Flight 137 from London Heathrow to LAX

Listening to: Jazz in The Natural Kitchen, London and silence

Image Credit: http://jayroeder.com

Dr. Happy: It's not just the thought that counts

If you’ve ever been told that “it’s the thought that counts” then with all due respect to your advisor, I believe he/she was only half right! Thoughts obviously do count; I’ve written many times about the benefits of optimism and the importance of developing a positive and constructive attitude for happiness and success.

But intentions without congruent action can be (and often are) near useless. Many of us when at school “meant” to do our homework but that didn’t ever satisfy our teachers. Similarly, many of us have considered exercising more and/or eating less but continue to engage in bad habits that do little to enhance our health and wellbeing.

John F. Kennedy once said…

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.

And just as notably, Gandhi has been quoted as saying…

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

What these two memorable quotes recommend to us is the importance of character – or the willingness to do the right thing at the right time (no matter how difficult it might be or seem to be at the time). There’s no doubt this isn’t always easy; but there’s also no doubt, as hinted at by JFK, that the alternative’s not much better (and often, far worse in the long run).

So if you’ve ever experienced the sting of regret (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?) give some serious consideration to putting these tips into practice to ensure that you don’t just think about living a good life but more importantly, you actually and actively love living your best life:

• Regularly schedule pleasurable activities in your life because fun and positive emotions are important • But also, regularly schedule satisfying activities into your life because the sense of achievement that comes from accomplishing something challenging and meaningful, even if not fun, is highly valuable • Be really clear about your values (e.g. honesty, fairness, altruism, courage, courtesy, dignity, excellence, growth, relationships, justice, kindness, modesty, temperance etc.) and do your best to behave consistently with these as often as you can • When faced with difficult decisions, weigh up the pros and cons and ask yourself, honestly, “what’s the RIGHT thing to do?”

And finally, don’t ever forget these final two tips…

Remember, firstly, to always acknowledge to yourself when you’ve done the right thing; too often we discount our achievements believing we’re avoiding arrogance but this false modesty can just undermine future attempts to act positively.

And don’t ever forget…actions speak louder than words!

 

University of Technology Sydney

Dr. Timothy Sharp is a clinical and coaching psychologist who’s sometimes known as Dr. Happy! He’s the Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute and you can find him regularly tweeting at @drhappy.

 

(Image Credit: 750 year old Sequoia trees in California, photo by Michael Nichols)